Georgia outdoor ministry focuses on preparing men to be Godly leaders


HAWKINSVILLE, Ga. – As darkness settled over the Browndale Plantation in Hawkinsville, a group of about 25 people prepared for one of the South’s oldest traditions, a coon hunt, arranged by a Georgia ministry that seeks to strengthen families by bringing them into the great outdoors.

It’s  the latest outing arranged by Kyle Woodfin, the Georgia Baptist preacher who leads the Hawkinsville-based Legacy Outdoor Ministries that sponsors hunts not only for raccoons, but also deer, hogs, turkeys, quail, dove and squirrels, depending on the season.

Twelve-year-old Mattie Callier pats a long-eared hound, one that stands nearly as tall as her. She’s eager to start the hunt, but first she and the others gathered inside a spacious lodge for a spaghetti dinner and a gospel message.

Woodfin reads Jesus’ parable about the Good Shepherd whose sheep known his voice and follow him. He draws a parallel to how the hounds waiting outside know their masters’ voices and follow them. He talks to the group of hunters about importance of recognizing Jesus’ voice and of obeying what He says.

Every message supports the ministry’s mission, which is to help fathers to lead their families well.

“We want to teach and encourage them to be men of God and leaders in their homes, churches and communities,” Woodfin said. “We also focus on children and  youth ministries with the expressed goal of passing on the legacy of the outdoors and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the next generation.”

After dinner, with flashlights in hand, the group of fathers, sons and daughters load onto wagons for the ride to the woods with two purebred champion hounds, Squeak and Penny. The hounds were brought in from west Georgia for the occasion by Midway Baptist Church Pastor Todd Wright and his good friend Jeff Dollar, a member of his church.

Wright and Dollar’s hounds are champions in the Professional Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, and ordinarily are all business, competing in hunts across the country. But on this night, the bask in the limelight, tails wagging, kids patting and them, as they prepare for the hunt.

Callier and her father, Matt, were here for a coon hunt last year, and were eager to come back.

“It’s so much fun,” she said, her arm wrapped tightly around one of the hounds.

Woodfin has been a champion of outdoor ministry for decades, convinced that time in nature opens people’s eyes to God. Out there, they’re freed from their televisions, video games and cellphones long enough for focus on more important matters.

“We’re seeing the outdoor sports, like coon hunting, being lost, because kids simply aren’t being exposed,” he said. “Our goal is to pass the outdoor legacy on to kids, but, more importantly, we try to equip dads to be dads and husbands. We see lots of people accept Christ through this ministry, and we see families strengthened.”

Founded in 2000, Legacy Outdoor Ministries has two lodges, one in Hawkinsville, the other in Alamo. The ministry also has access to a game-rich 2,400 acres of land courtesy of Stuckey Timberland Co. That’s a huge draw for men who grew up in the outdoors and who want to share the outdoor heritage with their children.

So, men bring their children for hunting and fishing, and Woodfin shares with them the biblical view of fathers and husbands.

“We believe that men need to be encouraged to be men of God,” Woodfin said. “We believe that when you teach husbands, fathers and sons to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, they become the men God created and ordained them to be. They become more loving husbands. They become more attentive fathers.”

Woodfin said the time fathers and their children spend together in the outdoors is never wasted. In fact, he said, that time can make an eternal difference..

“We focus on men’s ministry,” he said, “because we believe that when you encourage men and teach boys to follow Christ, they will, in turn, lead their families, churches and communities to Christ, as well.”